Junk food Day? That’s just what I needed. I’m no stranger to junk food and one could argue that half the things I have celebrated over the last year have been junk food. But this day came at a particularly bad time. My stomach has been a bit off. I think I am still recovering from my Hot Wieners or maybe it’s the humid weather. I just have not been feeling well after some of my recent commemorations. But this is what I vowed to finish – my noble quest. I can’t turn back now.
Naturally, junk food is an American creation. It’s not just something we created but it is also something we lead the market in and probably always will. #MAGA The term ‘Junk Food’ was first used in the 1950’s when a Lima, Ohio newspaper printed the headline, “Candy, Cake, ‘Junk Foods’ Cause Serious Malnutrition”. It was a reprint of a 1948 article from the Ogden, Utah paper which was originally headlined, “Dr. Brady’s Health Column: More Junk Than Food”. In the article, the mysterious Dr. Brady identified junk food as anything made principally of (1) white flour and or (2) refined white sugar or syrup. The word grew to more common use in 1972 when nutritionist Michael Jacobson who was working for The Center for Science in the Public Interest used the term in some of his teachings and books. Now it’s a pretty common word and while we all may not know the exact definition, we all know that it’s not a term of endearment. It means you are eating food that you know is not good for you. But it’s usually delicious.
The first Junk Food is usually acknowledged as Cracker Jacks. That was invented in 1896 and they would soon package it and have it available for national distribution. Then they added in a toy surprise so if the sugar in the treat wasn’t enough of an allure, the toy would get you. That’s where most people say the junk food craze started – readily available prepared food that you can eat right away. You can trace the whole history of other junk food icons from there. Tootsie Rolls (the first penny candy), Twinkies, Pork Rinds, Potato Chips. You know ’em. you love ’em. The next biggest development in the world of junk food came in 1976 when 7-11 convenience stores started popping up. No longer was our shopping confined to the giant grocers, now we had stores in convenient locations open longer hours selling us everything we needed and didn’t need. It made getting your hands on junk food that much easier. It also introduced us to new junk foods too (I’m looking at you Slurpees). Now convenience stores are everywhere and every gas station seems to be attached to a store that specializes in food of junk. I am happy to say I have been a substantial contributor to that business model over the years, although maybe I shouldn’t be so happy about that fact.
Today I started my day in full celebration mode and on my way to work, I stopped at my convenience store of choice, Cumberland Farms, and made a junk food breakfast purchase. I don’t usually get breakfast in any form on my way to work, but today was a special day so I made the stop. When I was commuting to New Hampshire, eating convenience store food was a bit more of a norm for me. I would stop to eat something just to tie me over the long road. That led to some bad choices and bad living. It was odd stopping today. It took me back to the sense memories of that commute. The food in the car. The empty wrappers on the floor. The regret. Cumberland Farms is a pretty busy place in the morning. There are people picking up their coffee, their smokes, their breakfast and all the rest they need for the day ahead. In my opinion, there are far too many loud people in Cumberland Farms at 8 am, but then again I am one who likes to keep kind of quiet in the morning hours. When you bump into someone who cannot control the volume of their voice at that hour, it gets under your skin and you start feeling stabby. Simmer down fellas – he’s about three feet away from you – he can hear you. I digress. I made my way through the shelves and made a threefold decision. I went with my old pal Little Debbie for a true breakfast food – Donut Sticks. I stuck with Deb for some chocolaty treats and her Nutty Buddy bars. Then I decided to pick up some Buffalo Blue Cheese Combos because no finer junk food has ever been created than the filled pretzel Combo.
These tasted exactly like junk food should taste – delicious and full of shame. Honestly, that’s how you feel after finishing this kind of stuff. I ate the Donut Sticks first and they were good in that packaged glazed donut kind of way. Packaged food is never as tasty as a fresh version – there’s something to the preservatives that you don’t get with a fresh made donut – but it was still good. The glaze got all over my fingers and I tried to wipe down my hands while driving through morning traffic. Usually on my way to work I get stopped in traffic right as I hit Providence and when that happened today, I decided to bust open the Combos. These were good too – it’s actually a nice flavor combination with the spicy Buffalo sauce and the taste of cheese mixed throughout. I finished that up just as I got to the office and now I was feeling like I had super foul morning breath. No worries – we have a bowl of Jolly Ranchers at the front. If I popped one of those in my mouth, that would balance out the Combo smell. I saved the Nutty Buddies for my midmorning snack. That’s always one of my favorites – the crispy wafer cookie, the peanut butter and chocolate combination. It was messy though and by the time I was done, it was all on my fingers. I had to go clean myself up afterwards lest I would have a keyboard strewn with melted chocolate.
I had plans to keep my junk food binge going and I actually found a list of the top ten junk foods which I was going to work my way through (Twinkies are number one). However, my belly was off after my morning snacks, so I didn’t have much interest in going all out on junk food. It was super hot today and as a result, at about 2:30, the power went out in our office. National Grid estimated it would come back at about 4 pm and that didn’t make much sense to wait around, so they sent us home. I got home about 3:30 and got to spend some time with Lola. It was nearing the end of a very long week for us. Lola had been on the phone with banks, realtors, loan officers, and more. Our family room is a sea of folders and notes with documents and official looking papers. Of all the weeks, this one was one of particular stress. We needed to escape and to do that, we decided to go out and see a 7:30 movie. The Big Sick was playing in Swansea which was the first movie that has come around in a while that we both wanted to see. It would be a chance to get lost in another world, hopefully get some laughs and just relax in the air-conditioned dark. Off we went and because we got there super early, we stopped at a Thai place near the theater for a quick dinner. We ended up splitting some Pad Thai which was good. When it was time to go to the movie, we had the leftovers packed up and Lola brought them with her into the movie (with some chopsticks).
The joy that Lola gets from bringing outside food into a theater is one of the funny things about her. It’s her inner-rebel. I have been with her when she brings in (on separate occasions of course) McDonald’s, Chipotle burritos and even sushi. I get too nervous (plus I don’t have a purse to sneak food in). But Lola loves this and today was a new milestone – Thai food with chopsticks. The container was perfect too – a pint container that fit nicely into her hands. I decided to keep up my junk food pursuits and I would finish my day with mini Kit Kats and a Snickers Ice Cream Bar. That’s how I roll in a dark theater.
These were good too. The unwrapped mini Kit Kats are a good idea, although you can’t break off a piece. But they pop right in your mouth and you get all that Kit Kat flavor – maybe with even more chocolate. The Snickers Ice Cream is always a treat too. You have to eat it fairly fast when you are at the theater, but it’s a good combo with the a thick layer of caramel that was the star. We ate our junk food and enjoyed a night at the cinema. It was a good movie. On a scale of 1 to 10 it would get about an 8 from me. There were just a few things about it that made it a bit longer than it needed to be. But it’s a great story and an even better cast. I would definitely recommend to anyone. Plus it got us out of our world for a good two hours.
In true celebration of the joy of Junk Food Day, I went to bed with a belly that was full and a deep feeling of regret from what I ate. The things I do in the name of this quest. In my celebration today, I think I honed in on what makes junk food special. It’s quick and easy and it brings instant satisfaction. It may come with shame and regrets, but in that moment when you are hungry and just want something tasty, it’s always there for you. Maybe that’s the problem. With anything, moderation is the key. That is the lesson to learn on Junk Food Day. The other lesson is that it’s ok to let junk food take you away. We all need a break every now and then. And sometimes, on that break, we just need a Twinkie.
Next up: National Penuche Fudge Day